Preventing Failures

Septic tank systems fail when the drain field does not dispose of sewage as rapidly as it is being added to the system. Thus, improvements that reduce the amount of incoming water or improve the quality of wastewater passing through the system will increase the system's longevity. Other important considerations include the following:
  • A drain field can be damaged by compaction due to vehicular traffic and can be blocked by excessive shrubbery or tree root growth. The drain field should be unobstructed and seeded with grass. Grass and sunlight aid evaporation.
  • Washing machines are responsible for large volumes of water entering the septic tank. The surge of wash water can create turbulence in the tank which increases the amount of solids flushed into the drain field. Space washings throughout the week rather than doing many loads at a time.
  • Cooking oils and grease are trouble makers. The type of bacteria found in septic tanks and drain fields do not survive or function well in solidified grease. Grease and cooking fats should never be washed down the sink drain. Save grease in jars or cans for disposal in the garbage.
  • Know the location and capacity of your septic tank system. If you have a copy of your original permit, keep it available for future reference.
  • Have tank pumped when the combined depth of the sludge and scum equals 1/3 of the tank liquid volume.
  • Install the system so that rainfall and surface water will flow away from the drain field. · Grow grass above the system.
  • Install water conservation fixtures or devices to reduce the total volume of water entering the system.
  • Keep plumbing fixtures such as toilets and faucets in good repair to prevent leakage and wasting of water.
  • Keep copies of maintenance receipts.
  • Never flush paper towels, newspapers, wrapping paper, rags, or sticks into the system.
  • Never overuse ordinary household cleaning chemicals that will be flushed into the system.
  • Never pour out or empty hobby or home-industry chemicals into the system.
  • Never allow grease or other bulky waste to enter the system.
  • Never flush toxic materials such as pesticides into the system.
  • Never plant trees or shrubbery in the drain field.
  • Never allow vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.) to drive across or park on the drain field. (Protect it from being crushed.)
  • Never waste water.
  • Never use chemical solvents to clean plumbing lines or a septic tank system.